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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
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The ‘Chance’ Encounter

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It was his first taste of success.

As a poor immigrant, Yosef owned few possessions and knew no one in America. Fortunately, though, he possessed a keen business sense and his wife had an exceptional eye for diamonds and precious jewels. She accompanied her husband to my grandfather, a wholesale jeweler, and together they purchased a few fine pieces and opened a small jewelry store.

With determination and a strong work ethic, Yosef’s business quickly took off. Within a week, he sold most of his inventory. He planned to use the profits to purchase additional pieces of jewelry and, hopefully, build a successful business.

Yosef returned home that Friday afternoon in good spirits. Noting the late hour, he stopped at a local synagogue to daven Minchah. He davened slowly and diligently and was one of the last men left in shul. On his way out, he noticed his old friend Herman in the corner of the shul. Herman looked troubled, so Yosef approached him and asked if everything was okay.

Herman slowly shook his head. “I feel like my life is falling apart. My wife has been sick for months and our home is falling apart. My children are suffering, and my wife’s situation is deteriorating. I hardly have enough money to put bread on the table, let alone the expensive medical procedure for my wife.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Yosef. “What can I do for you?”

“I’m not really sure,” Herman replied. “I don’t know why I am pouring my heart out to a complete stranger; I guess I am very desperate. Yesterday the doctor told us about a procedure that may be able to save my wife’s life.” He suddenly paused.

“That’s wonderful,” said Yosef.

“Well, not quite. There is no way I’d be able to come up with thousands of dollars to pay for this procedure. A few of my friends have kindly offered to help me, but that only amounts to a few hundred dollars – a fraction of what the surgery will cost.” He shook his head as a tear rolled down his cheek. “I’m sorry for keeping you. I just had to get it off my chest. Thanks for listening. I better go home to my wife now.”

Yosef was silent as he watched the broken man walk away. Herman’s head was bowed and his shoulders were slumped.

“Wait,” Yosef called after him. “I want to help you.”

Slowly, Yosef pulled an envelope from the inside pocket of his jacket. “Here, take this money,” he said. “Use it to pay for your wife’s surgery, and may she have a speedy recovery.”

Herman was speechless, yet the look in his eyes said it all. Indeed, his gratitude knew no bounds.

On Monday morning, Yosef returned to my grandfather’s shop to purchase new merchandise.

“How’s business?” asked my grandfather.

“Thank God, it’s going well,” Yosef replied. Nonetheless, Yosef was strapped for cash. He explained what had occurred in shul on Friday afternoon.

My grandfather listened to the story carefully. Afterward he walked to his vault and returned with a wad of cash. “Here,” he said to Yosef, handing him the cash. “This is a thousand dollars. I want to participate in this great mitzvah. Give it to the man to help his wife get better.”

Together, Yosef and my grandfather sponsored almost the entire sum for the lifesaving surgery for the sickly Jewish woman.

* * *

Decades passed, and no one in my family was aware of this story. By “chance,” I met Yosef while vacationing in Israel. After stopping to ask him for directions, we began chatting. After a quick round of “Jewish geography,” Yosef’s face lit up.

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